Thanks to its convergence of film, food, and wine, the sixth annual Napa Valley Film Festival, running Nov. 9-13, has emerged as a festival favorite among Hollywood. Held in the villages of Napa, Yountville, St. Helena, and Calistoga, the five-day affair is attracting 120 independent films and 300 filmmakers who will enjoy access to 150 wineries and 50 chefs.
“This year is huge,” says Marc Lhormer, fest co-founder, executive and artistic director, noting that the fest is expecting roughly 50,000 total attendees over the course of the festival. “It feels like there’s been a big breakthrough in terms of the awareness of the festival and its reputation.”
NVFF will kick off with “Lion,” an awards-season contender that first garnered buzz after debuting at the Toronto festival earlier this year. Star Dev Patel is expected to attend as he’s also being honored at the festival. Other notable films and stars include “Bleed for This” with Aaron Eckhart, “The Book of Love” with Jessica Biel, “Captain Fantastic” with director Matt Ross and star Viggo Mortensen, “Generosity of Eye” with Julia Louis-Dreyfus, “Miss Sloane” with director John Madden, and “Youth in Oregon” with director Joel David Moore. Writer-director Alan Kropf will accompany closing-night documentary “Pisco Punch: A Cocktail Comeback Story.”
Additional screenings include “Burn Your Maps,” “Gleason,” “Mr. Church,” “The Red Turtle,” and Katie Holmes’ directorial debut “All We Had.”
Meanwhile, a celebrity tribute night will be held on Nov. 10 at the Lincoln Theater in Yountville to celebrate the cinematic achievements of up-and-coming and established talent. Among this year’s honorees are Patel and Mortensen in addition to Lee Daniels, Kurt Russell, Chloe Grace Moretz, Zoey Deutch, and Glen Powell. The presentation will include on-stage interviews conducted by “Access Hollywood’s” Natalie Morales and Kit Hoover. Afterwards, honorees will enjoy a lavish dinner courtesy of Estate Events by Meadowood.
While wine tastings will be available at most screening venues, the festival will also offer cooking demonstrations throughout the week at its Culinary Stage located on the Napa Riverfront. The festivities will kick off on Nov. 10 afternoon with Variety’s 10 to Taste, an event exclusive to NVFF’s high-rolling VIP attendees.
Presented by the Food Network and Cooking Channel, the program will feature dishes inspired by iconic food scenes as created by 10 young chefs. Variety editor Carole Horst will moderate the panel, which includes chef Tyler Florence.
“It went so well last year with Bobby Flay that I know it’s going to be another really fun highlight,” says Lhormer. “Complementing great cinematic storytelling with food and wine experiences is such a nice fit. In Napa, there is sense of craftsmanship. There’s a kinship between independent filmmaking and these small family-owned wineries, which are 95% of Napa’s wineries. Everyone has this hands-on approach. I think that’s similar to independent filmmaking.”
Other attractions include the annual pitch competition Nov. 13 at the festival’s Copia Screening Room, as well as the return of the Lexus Short Films series, which features four new films created by young filmmakers who received guidance from a producer at the Weinstein Co. Daniels will be on hand to host a conversation with the directors following the screenings. Additionally, Amy Sherman-Palladino and Daniel Palladino, the creators and producers behind “Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life,” will participate in a panel about the show’s anticipated Netflix reunion.
“Napa Valley is a great destination,” says Lhormer. “It’s a relaxed, intimate, up-close encounter. I think the fact that everybody is pleasantly buzzed on wine all day long probably helps facilitate that. But you just can’t beat the experience.”